Saturday, 10 August 2013

Desert wadis - practical wargame terrain

In general terms there are two considerations for wargaming terrain. The first is the aesthetic quality, the second is practicality. Sometimes the aesthetic can be practical, especially when it comes to 'moveable' / free standing terrain. Fantastic looking buildings can be made and ways found to make them practical - by giving them gardens for occupying troops to go in, etc. Trees and other vegetation can also be both because they can be moved around to make space for any troops passing through them. Things become a little more tricky when it comes to larger features, especially hills, rivers and other major topographical features.

If I were to wish for something to add to my wargaming set up, it would be a collection of nicely sculpted modular terrain tiles. No it's not! Scrub that wish because I could probably have them if I wanted - my modelling skills and knowledge are probably good enough - what I need is a spare £500,000 to buy a spare house big enough to store it all in; because lets face it, I'd want an awful lot of modules to re-fight this and that battle. Therein lies the truth about practical wargames terrain - storage.

At Fiasco, Leeds Wargames Show later this year, I intend doing a WW2 Western Desert demo game. For it, I need a lot of wadis and escarpment. I have two options. I can spend a heap of money and do it with purpose built terrain modules - which I will have to take down to the dump immediately afterwards because I'll have nowhere to store it - or I can do what I usually do and go the way of versatile, easy to store, applique terrain pieces.

This week I started planning and making my applique wadi sections. Aesthetically they leave a little, possibly a lot, to be desired, but with a little imagination you can see what they represent. They are certainly better than the pieces of beige paper I've been using up to now.

They are also extremely easy, and fairly cheap, to produce - I marked and cut the 2mm MDF and glued the banks on sixteen feet this afternoon. I also did a test run on a couple of feet. Here is the result of that test and a "How I....".

A 12" wadi section. The wadi is 9cm wide overall with 2cm 'banks'. The base is 2mm MDF well primed and undercoated. The banks are foam core. 
I wanted to be sure of the width of the gap / wadi bed, so I cut the banks down the centre. This also saves on wastage and means section ends match up. I also marked each pair A, B, C, etc. just in case they got mixed up.
 Next I trimmed off the outer bank of the wadi with various craft knives. It does not have to be accurate, but fairly even is best.
 Here is a pic of the wadi in section.
 After trimming the banks, I undercoated them. This is a water based household, exterior undercoat.
 PA good coat of PVA and sprinkled sand and grit gives texture. I will need to go out and get another 4 litre container of this - I've almost used 4 litres in a year!
 There is too much of this to do with an ink wash, so I'm doing these with a cheap acrylic.
 Dry brushed with the paint I used for the table (Dulux emulsion) will blend it in.
 More dry brushing with a lighter colour at the base of the wadi so it stands out a little.
And that's it. I will be doing turns as simple arcs of 30 (x9) and 45 (x4) degrees. They are river beds, after all, and can meander a bit.

As flexible as the paper sections (almost), more durable and better looking than the paper, but not as good as sculpted modular terrain - though sixteen feet of modular wadi terrain tile is a lot of module. These will do until.....


MarkG said...

Those look very nice, just a tad better than the paper wadi's!

Robert Hingley said...

IMO, the beige paper works like a charm for what it was needed for. I use coloured felt all the time to represent various terrain features on my kitchen table.

Will McNally said...

Nicely done.

Looks just like the old Bellona river sections, which were simple and functional. Might be worth adding some entry/exit points at positions where vehicles can enter. Quite likely that these would be at the outside curve of a bend just like an ordinary river.

Steve J. said...

Practical and moveable wargames terrain is easily achievable as your post shows. Storage is always a bug bear for wargamers, so for the vast amjority of us this is the way to go. Plus it is infintely flexible in terms of arrangement.

On the wadis themselves, may I dare to suggest some small bits of scrub etc to really make them stand out?



I know what you mean about the broken banks, but I'll be using these as shallow 'stream' wadis in the main and my rules have a 'stop at contact with new terrain' clause to represent finding such places (I'm playing 1" = 50m, so a unit in line is looking for a break / way on a 300m frontage). I'm going to tackle bigger wadis by making more 'escarpment' pieces. These major wadis will have broken bank bits.



Yep, bushes.

I like to throw small bushes (Woodland Scenics 'clumps') on to the table to break up the sameness of the playing surface and give a bit of 'vertical relief' (in the same way as putting several isolated trees on a table representing a temperate climate - in game terms they mean nothing but look good). I will scatter these small bushes onto the wadis too - it will tie them in.

Gonsalvo said...

Very effective and attractive looking I'd say, without occupying a ton of space.


Phil said...

Very nice, a great work!